Somehow I managed to raise a manchild to the ripe old age of thirteen before he became aware of the existence of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know that this is hard to imagine, and even more difficult in light of the fact that we live in Vallarta, the home of the infamous Predator set. Arnold spent some time in Vallarta in 1986, filming this action movie in the jungle near Mismaloya.
My son was not allowed to see action movies that involved people having their spines forcibly removed, so we didn’t bring up the subject until he began yelling “Get to the choppa!” around the house. We asked him where he heard this Predator line, made famous by Arnold shouting it in his distinctive accent. Of course, he heard the line on the internet (so grateful for all this amazing information available to our children at any hour of the day or night).
After he learned more about Arnold and his action-packed resume, we decided it might be ok to take him and his sister up to the set. He was absolutely on board. So, during Semana Santa, we made our way to El Eden, home of the Predator Set, along with a canopy tour, a restaurant, some natural swimming pools and a few short hiking trails.
After getting off the main highway to Mismaloya, the drive up isn’t what you would call comfortable. If you struggle with carsickness, just understand that you will spend about anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour (depending on how much your car’s suspension means to you) feeling like your breakfast might make an abrupt reappearance out the window. However, the surrounding vegetation and the mountain views are worth the rough driving conditions.
We paid 50 pesos per person to enter the set and to gain access to the rest of the grounds. This included one drink of our choice (soda, beer or water).
If we want to dwell on details, The Predator Set could more accurately be called The Battered Helicopter the Studio Didn’t Want to Take Home. There’s not much left from Arnold’s time in the Mexican jungle. But there IS a guy dressed up in a pretty decent Predator costume, which, combined with the helicopter, makes for a decent photo op. If you’re with a teenage boy or if you were a teenage boy in 1986, you really shouldn’t miss it. For 150 pesos for a photo with its own Predator frame, it’s not a bad deal. There are also some posters that describe where some of the scenes took play, and my kid was all over that.
We took the hike instead of the canopy, so I can’t tell you very much about the ziplines, but I can say that the trails were beautiful. I imagine the views from the canopy tour were jaw-dropping. We were able to hike over a long swinging bridge which was terrifying for those of us (me) who are afraid of heights, and caused a tense argument about whether walking in the middle of the boards was safer than on the edges (which we have now decided to stop bringing up over the dinner table).
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the restaurant and natural pool. The menu items were mostly sea food, but we stuck to snack items like guacamole and quesadillas and a big pitcher of lemonade. The kids and Gil swam in the fresh water, and I waded in to my calves because the water felt like a Canadian lake in May (ie the coldest water I’ve ever experienced in Vallarta). The water was beautifully clear, and we were surrounded by the most beautiful green jungle and a few large posters of a very unattractive, dangerous-looking alien. Overall, it was a very relaxing environment for a family outing.
We had a great time at El Eden. I would recommend going even if your son hasn’t developed a fixation for The Terminator. Our family has always enjoyed a day at the river, but it’s always nice to spice things up, especially once you have teenagers who think most activities that involve parents are excruciating.
If you have your very own teenager, head out to El Eden and give it a try. He’ll get a photo with an ugly-looking alien, you’ll get a lovely day in the jungle by a river. He’ll think you’re cool for being alive when the Predator movie was made, and you’ll get him to talk. Everyone can win